A strange scene took place in a Santa Mateo County courtroom this week when billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla claimed he couldn’t recall key information regarding the management of a $37.5 million beach property he purchased in 2008.
The Surfrider Foundation is suing Khosla after the only public access road to Martins Beach, a 53-acre tract about six miles south of Half Moon Bay, was restricted by a closed gate after Khosla’s purchase.
Surfrider attorneys said Khosla had knowledge of decisions regarding the property, but Khosla remained evasive when questioned by prosecuting attorney Joseph Cotchett, stating repeatedly he “did not recollect” conversations, letters or legal documents regarding the beach.
Former Congressman Pete McCloskey, part of the Surfrider legal team, could hardly believe it:
“I’ve been practicing law for 61 years and I’ve never heard this kind of defense. It’s baloney.”
Khosla said he doesn’t know when he bought the property, how much it cost or why the decision was made to keep the public out. Because Khosla never discussed the property without lawyers present, he invoked the attorney-client privilege for nearly every question regarding Martins.
The lawsuit charges that the road closure is a violation of the California Coastal Act and the 1972 California Coastal Zone Conservation Initiative, which made the entire coast public property.
Despite Khosla’s lack of recollection, KQED reported Surfrider attorneys said as owner of the property, Khosla had knowledge of any decision made regarding the beach. This includes a painted-over billboard that used to welcome people to the beach, well as armed guards to keep people out.
Kholsa, known for backing eco-friendly projects, said he did not remember promising not to cut off public access before the Martins purchase, and also couldn’t recall e-mails and letters from the county, the court or politicians telling him that public access must be preserved. From his testimony:
“If I were to receive a letter like this, I probably wouldn’t read it. I would forward it to be taken care of.”
Joe Cotchett, representing to surfer group, did not sound impressed by any of this according to SFGate:
“I think this man does not go to the potty without his attorney being there. There was an arrogance there that defies common sense. … He couldn’t remember a thing. I would never say he was lying. I would only say that his recollection is not good.”